Maryland HIV Cases Drop To 30 Year Low, But Gaps Remain HIV rates remain high among young black men.
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Maryland HIV Cases Drop To 30 Year Low, But Gaps Remain

The rate of new HIV cases among black men was three to 10 times higher than their Hispanic and white counterparts. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Flickr hide caption

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National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/Flickr

While the rate of new HIV infections in Maryland is the lowest it has been in more than 30 years, disparities remain high among some demographic groups.

There was a total of 994 new cases in the state in 2018 — the first time since 1986 that there were fewer than a thousand cases, according to a report by the state department of health. New HIV diagnoses peaked in 1991 with 2,612 cases, and while there has been a downward trend in recent years, young black men are still disproportionately impacted by the disease.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Peter DeMartino, the state's director of infectious disease prevention. "It's great this report lets us know what we are doing is working."

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The report shows that rates of people living with HIV were three to 10 times higher among non-Hispanic black men than their Hispanic and white counterparts. Dr. Leana Wen from George Washington University's School of Medicine and Health Science said black men are five times more likely to die from HIV.

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Provided by the Maryland State Department of Health

"While there is good news, we cannot lose sight of the pervasive disparities that are there," Wen said. "African Americans have traditionally been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDs and this report shows that they continue to be."

Wen previously served as Baltimore City's health commissioner. She partially attributes lowering the rate of new HIV infection to the city's syringe exchange program. The percentage of people with HIV from IV [syringe] drug use dropped from 63% of all infections to 7% within 20 years, according to research on Baltimore City's HIV rates.

DeMartino points out that while the state is on track to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030, barriers to prevention and treatment for black men with HIV still exist.

"We are aware of the disparity," DeMartino said. "We're working to ensure that we're investing resources in the right way to make sure our healthcare system is responsive to the social determinants of health."

The state department of health continues to provide free and confidential HIV testing.

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